Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Librarian Lowdown: Nancy Jo Lambert

Welcome to the third edition of The Librarian Lowdown.  You are in for a treat today.  I was honored that Nancy Jo Lambert, teacher-librarian at McSpedden Elementary School in Frisco, Texas agreed to come visit my blog. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Nancy Jo in person, but she is definitely on my list of PLN members that I need to meet.  Enjoy!

Hi Nancy Jo.  Welcome to The Librarian Lowdown.  You are my third guest.  Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions...

It is absolutely my pleasure to get to be on your new Librarian Lowdown blog series!

How long have been a school librarian?  Tell us a little about your school.

This is my 5th year as a librarian and my 10th year as an educator. I am at a brand new school this year. My district in Texas is a very fast growing area, and we recently enrolled our 50,000th student! We open new schools almost every year. McSpedden Elementary School is the school I opened this 2014-2015 school year. It was a great opportunity that I knew would be challenging, but also a lot of fun!

I hope that the McSpedden Library, or #MSELib on social media, is a place where students can come to read, learn, connect, create, and imagine. I post to our Instagram account, Library Facebook Page, and Twitter to the #MSELib hashtag.

I am on a fixed schedule with kindergarten and 1st grade where I see 1 class of each every day for 30 minutes. Then, I am on a flex schedule for grades 2-5. In order for their classes to come to the library, they have to collaborate with me on a curriculum lesson. Sometimes they come as a whole class for a quick checkin and checkout, but they do not have a regular day or time. We also do Reader’s Workshop at my school, so each teacher has 3 library passes on lanyards. Our thinking is that we want the students to come to the library at point of need, instead of because it is library day. We want them to take on the habits of genuine readers. Genuine readers go to the library when they need a new book to read. Our grades 2-5 students can come every day to the library if they need to or once a month if that is when they need to.

I love that in our library we have a Makerspace. Our Makerspace items came from a $5,000 Canvas Grant I received last year from Instructure. We also had some consumable items donated by a parent. We have Maker Mondays, Minecraft Clubs, and a Raspberry Pi Club that all utilize the Makerspace materials. I have been able to connect the curriculum with the Makerspace a couple of times, but that will be my goal next year. I would (ideally) like to connect each grade level once a semester with the Makerspace.

Also this year I was excited to create goals for the library. I was inspired by Andy Plemmons and the goals he outlined for his library. It greatly inspired me to create goals for my library. I have worked hard to communicate those goals to everyone on our campus and then make sure that everything we do here in the library aligns with those goals.

What is the best part about being a school librarian?

The best part about being a school librarian is the kids! I am passionate about being a good educator and serving the students and teachers I work with. I love it when a student is excited about a book, or anxious to do inquiry, or thrilled with a creation! Those are the moments that make all the work worthwhile for me!

I know that this is your first year in your new library. What are the exciting opportunities involved with starting over in a new school.  What are the challenges?

I have a wonderful principal who provides the absolute best in leadership for our school. We established our motto of “Inspire one. Inspire many.” as a staff last spring. I have carried that motto into the library. Since I opened the school and the library, I got decide on how to decorate and set up the physical space and how to set up the collection. I have also had the opportunity to choose a lot of books for the collection and build it to meet the needs of this new campus.

One of the biggest challenges for me was having to work with the furniture I was given in the new school. I was able to move some of the shelves around, but not all. I also wish that my brand new circulation desk was shorter. When I work with a range of ages of students, I wish that the circulation desk was shorter so I could see my littlest ones.

Also, when I walked into the library it was a blank slate! I had to add signage, put procedures in place, teach the procedures to the students, and none of it happened quickly! It was hard at first, but by the end of the first semester everything was in place.

You are such an inspiring, active member of your PLN.  How have others inspired you to continue growing as a librarian.

Well thank you! I work really hard to share what I do for several reasons. I want to advocate for my place in my school every day by showing how I contribute to student achievement to all my stakeholders. If the students, teachers, administrators and parents all know what I am doing, no one will ever let me go! Also, I feel we are better together! If I share everything I do and it helps even one educator, then it was worth it! I will never charge for sharing my lessons because I want to contribute to the field of education every way that I can. However, it should be said that I am a huge advocate for all educators to share their stories (#tyslib= Tell Your Story Libraries and #TITL= Today In the Library). If we are sharing the stories of the learning happening in our schools, then that is the best advocacy we can do. Since I share what I do, my hope is that other educators will also share what they do to help and inspire me! My greatest source of inspiration and help comes from the many educators I know whose blogs I follow and who use Twitter to share and connect. I would not be nearly as an effective and powerful educator as I am without my PLN!

What are your future goals for your library program?

For me, as long as I am always learning, there will always be a new goal! I am learning constantly from others about how I acan make the library a better learning environment for my school. I don’t have anything specific in place right now, as I feel like I am still working to further meet the goals I outlined for the library this fall. I always want to make sure that our library program is tailored to the needs of my teachers and students and that any goals that I have, have them in mind.

And finally...

If you could have dinner with one book character, who would you choose and why?

Oh my gosh! You may as well have asked me to pick my favorite book (which I absolutely cannot do!)

So because you asked such a difficult question I am going to have to break the rules and pick more than one!

I would love to have a dinner party with the following book character guests: 
Edward and Bella Cullen
August "Auggie" Pullman
Will, Jem and Tessa (From the Infernal Devices Series)
Deuce (from the Razorland series)
Harry Potter, Ron and Hermoine, and 
Geronimo Stilton

I think that would be a very lively dinner party!

That it would, indeed!!!

You can follow Nancy Jo and her library happenings:

Twitter:  @NancyJoLambert

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Librarian Lowdown: Jennifer Reed

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Jennifer Reed at ALA Midwinter last month.  It did not take long to see her passion for children, literature and her job as a teacher-librarian. Jennifer is the teacher-librarian at Mason-Rice Elementary School in Newton, MA.   I'm delighted that Jennifer was willing to join me for the second edition of The Librarian Lowdown.

Hi Jennifer.  Welcome to The Librarian Lowdown.  You are my second guest.  Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions...

How long have been a school librarian?  Tell us a little about your school.

This is my 11th year as a teacher librarian. That I can state that number of years catches me off guard, as I feel like I just started this new career yesterday – partly because it still feels so fresh and fun and partly because, as with all teaching jobs, I am always learning and improving my craft, so it never feels old. I work in a school with 22 classrooms and about 470 students. (Newton is a big little city. We have fifteen elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools and educate about 12,000 children.) The library space is small but bright. There are windows on three sides! The space has dictated a more flexible teaching and learning style, which I think has added to the sense of exploration and discovery.

What is the best part about being a school librarian?

Hanging at the intersection of reader and story. As much as I value and integrate technology and believe strongly in giving students ample opportunities to express their opinions and ideas through various media, there is nothing like seeing children engage in reading and connect with a piece of literature. The favorite part of any day or week is a student coming up to me and saying, “Mrs. Reed, I just finished (insert name of book here)!” A conversation about the book usually ensues. I also really love when a student comes to return a book and brings along the person who wants to check it out. They are the best source of reader’s advisory. I know there is talk about the future of the physical book and the growth of eBooks, but from my vantage point, children still love actual books and I love witnessing that connection.

I know that you've been making some changes to your library space.  Can you share them with us?

Absolutely! In fact, here’s a post with a before and after video: The New Library Space is Here! The New Library Space is Here!  The bigger changes were precipitated by a smaller change. I have been teaching with a terrible technology set up for about three years. The projector and laptop were on a cart behind the students, so I could never see their faces or I had to dash back and forth like an arcade duck. I have been waiting for a white board and interactive project, but the process has been held up because of all the windows. About three weeks ago, I bought a 25 foot VGA cable and set up my laptop and Elmo on top of one of the book cases next to the projection screen. Voila! I was now in front of the students and able to model and click through pages without running behind them! This small (but significant) change lead to the much bigger change – making my space more flexible and improving the flow between work areas.  I still have some work to do – changing signage, shifting parts of the collection, and finding comfortable seating – but the initial reaction from teachers and students has been quite positive!

You do a lot to connect with other libraries/librarians.  Would you share some of your collaboration projects?

Sure! There are two ways that I connect and collaborate. The first is through literacy initiatives like Dot Day, Picture Book Month, and World Read Aloud Day. I am hoping to get involved in Dia this year as well. For these events, we generally connect our students via Skype and share a related project. The other way that I have been connecting and collaborating is with year long learning partners like Shawna Ford in Texas and Kathy Schmidt in Atlanta. We connected specific classes and have met via Skype to share projects and learn from each other. For example, my students showed Shawna Ford’s students how to use the Tellagami app and shared Internet Safety projects that they created. Shawna’s students then demonstrated how to use the green screen and shared some of their projects. With Kathy Schmidt, we’ve been connecting around literature by practicing book talks and commenting on blog posts. Laura Given in Minneapolis and I have been connecting the same grade of students for three years. We began with a shared blog and have morphed into connecting for specific projects like our recent Mock Caldecott unit.

What are your future goals for your library program?

Think. Wonder. Ponder. Imagine. Play. Explore. Tinker. Build. Make. Create. Innovate. 

I want these words to come to mind when people think about the library program. (Read is not there because it is inherent in each of these ideas.)  In more practical terms, I want teachers and students to see our library space as a place to both consume and produce information. For me, this means being involved in not only the research part of collaboration with classroom teachers, but in the entire project from start to finish. In addition, I have a fixed/flex schedule and so it also means demonstrating the value of the ideas above so that teachers will use the flextime within my schedule. Time on learning puts much pressure on classroom teachers so I need to show the value of time spent doing the things above and how time spent tinkering, building, and creating are necessary components of the CCSS.

...and now for a little fun...

If you could have dinner with one book character, who would you choose and why?

Ack! I really don’t like these questions because I am terrible at choosing that one book or one movie or one character. I also have a hard time choosing which books – those that I read when I was young versus those that I read now.  There are also the books for the “above age twelve set” that I have read. I am also assuming that we are talking about fictional characters.  (If we were talking about subjects of biographies, I would begin with Eleanor of Aquitaine and Eleanor Roosevelt).  Also, should I assume we are talking people? If we're talking animals then I would choose Winnie-the-Pooh, Beekle, and the little fish from This is Not My Hat).  Back to your question! I would not be able to invite just one person because I am having a dinner party! Watch out, I’ve invited some sassy, smart and strong characters; this dinner will be full of storytelling, dramatics, and laughter. These are only the first five guests, but I am off to a great start!

Flora Belle Buchman (Flora & Ulysses) because she is a “natural born cynic.”  I need that person that makes me question life, but who, like Flora, has a heart made of gold. We also share a common interest: reading the “idiotic high jinks of comics.”

Mo LoBeau (Three Times Lucky) because she is earnest and adventurous.  She reminds me that the thing that I am looking for might actually be right in front of me. I am also secretly hoping she’ll invite me to Tupelo Landing, a place that I would love to call home.  

Lizzie Scatterding (The Great Unexpected) because she believes. She reminds me that we are all connected – that a “delicate cobweb links us all.”

Grandma Dowdel (A Long Way from Chicago) because she is a good person. She reminds me that it is not who we are but what we do that matters. She always does the right thing, and she does it in her own (often unconventional) way.

Junie B. Jones (Junie B. Jones series) because she is funny. She reminds me that perspective is important and to think about other people.

This sounds like a dinner party that I would love to attend! Awesome!

Thanks, Jennifer, for taking the time to stop by my blog and for sharing the amazing things that are happening in your library!

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter: @libraryreeder

Learn more about her library at:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Librarian Lowdown: Matthew Winner

Welcome to the first installment of my new blog series:  The Librarian Lowdown.  Each week I will feature an awesome school librarian.  We will learn about the happenings of some amazing school libraries!

I am delighted that my first guest is Matthew Winner.  Matthew is the Library Media Specialist at Ducketts Lane Elementary School.  I am thankful to Matthew for his willingness to participate in this series.

Hi Matthew.  Welcome to The Librarian Lowdown.  You are my first guest.  Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions...

How long have been a school librarian?  Tell us a little about your school.

This is my 10th year teaching and 8th as a school librarian. (I taught 4th grade prior.) My current school is Ducketts Lane Elementary in Elkridge, MD. It's a beautiful building and it's brand new. I was part of the opening staff last year and had the great pleasure of opening a brand new library, including building the collection from the ground up. Our school is located just west of Baltimore and our student population is currently around 850, PreK thru grade 5. 

Second grade students enjoying a Skype visit with Kate DiCamillo.

What, do you feel, is the best part about being a school librarian?

The kids, without question, are the best part of being a school librarian for me. It's because of them that I bring my A-game each and every day, and it's because of them that I model meaningful failure, the pursuit of understanding through play, and the emphasis that each of us has a unique skill we bring to understanding the world better. They are a constant reminder of why I entered the teaching profession and I am blessed in my position as school librarian to get to watch them grow from pre-readers just starting school to readers who can articulate reading preferences, synthesize information into new understandings, and be passionate about reading and good books every step of the way.

Can you tell us about something new that is happening in your library this year? 

There are a lot of new things happening at every grade level, but one of the things I'm most excited about is studying simple machines with our 1st graders in order to participate in the Global Cardboard Challenge. Being able to mesh curriculum objectives with play and exploration is something I always look forward to, and getting messy on a project that will extend over consecutive weeks with 5 and 6 year-olds is amazing. 

 What are your future goals for your library program?

I've been contemplating a unit on webcomics recently and I'm nearly ready to start seriously planning something out. Logistics and access to technology resources has held me back a bit, but this is a publishing medium I'd like my students to be aware of and I think that it's a resource they'll run with as soon as they find out it's out there. I guess most of my future goals are in a similar vein: continuing to push learning beyond the brick and mortar walls of our library and our school building.

 Please finish this sentence.  School libraries are... trouble, but through intentional acts of awesomeness, transparency, and enthusiasm, we ALL have the tools to save them!

I am a HUGE fan of your Let's Get Busy Podcast.  Can you tell us about how you came upon the idea of doing the podcast and what the experience has meant to you?

I pitched the idea to Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes at a hotel bar at an ALA Annual conference in Chicago, citing how much I love the podcast medium as well as these candid moments we get at library conferences to speak to talents of children's literature beyond their publications. Travis' excitement over the idea was the push I needed to get started. I recorded the very first episode of Let's Get Busy within the following week.

Let's Get Busy means so much to me mostly because it's something I pour my heart into that gives back in equal or greater returns. It's incredible to get to talk to these authors and illustrators and educators whom I admire so much. And when we chat, I seldom think beyond the conversation I'm having right there. Of course, when it's over the conversation is sent out into the great unknown that is the Internet and ends up taking roots in any number of countless and surprising places. When I hear back, whether through word of mouth or Twitter or an email, about where the podcast is reaching it makes me dizzy to witness that these conversations are impacting others the same way that they're impacting me. It's incredible and I hope to be doing the podcast for a very long time.

And now for a little fun...

If you could have dinner with one book character, who would you choose and why?

I would choose to have dinner with Rabbit Cece Bell from El Deafo, because real Cece Bell is one of the nicest, kindest people on the planet. And also because if I was a kid rabbit with Cece, I could see us getting into a whole lot of memorable trouble using the Phonic Ear's wireless microphone and a little make-believe. Plus, I think I'd make a pretty awesome rabbit friend.

Thank you to Matthew for taking the time to share with us today. 

You can follow Matthew on Twitter:  @MatthewWinner  
Check out his blog (The Busy Librarian):  
His AMAZING podcast (Let's Get Busy):

School Library Blog:
School Library Facebook Page:
School Library Twitter:  @DLESlibrary

Friday, February 6, 2015

Coming Soon: The Librarian Lowdown

I'm very pleased to announce that this blog will now be host to a new weekly series...The Librarian Lowdown.  Each week I will conduct a short interview with a different school librarian.  I am so very excited with the AWESOME people who have agreed to participate...I know you will be too!

Stay tuned for the first edition of The Librarian Lowdown.